“The Assassination of Hole in the Day” has all the earmarks of a great Hollywood movie according to the book’s author.
Anton Treuer is a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University who belongs to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Treuer is attempting to make a major motion picture based on his work.
“It’s a long process to get a book made into a movie,” Treuer said of his book, which came out a decade ago.
Chief Hole-in-the-Day the Younger was gunned down in the road by 12 Ojibwe men from Pillager on June 27, 1868, near the current site of the Fisherman’s Bridge off Gull Lake. The chieftain left his Gull Lake home to renegotiate the treaty terms regarding a new reservation at White Earth.
“Hole-in-the-Day was a really important historical figure who changed the trajectory of not just local or Minnesota but national history,” Treuer said.
“Bagone-giizhig,” known in English as “Hole-in-the-Day the Younger,” was “a charismatic and influential leader who played a key role in relations between the Ojibwe and the U.S. government in Minnesota,” according to Andrew B. Stone, a Minnesota Historical Society writer.
“It’s a fascinating story, a historical murder mystery,” Treuer said. “There were probably at least a dozen different folks who had motive prior to his assassination. The money from the treaty went to Ojibwe leaders who dispersed it to their people and were the arbiters of their fate.”
Hole-in-the-Day the Younger became chief of the Mississippi band of Ojibwe after the death of his father, Bagone-giizhig the Elder. Like his father, the younger Hole-in-the-Day wanted to be chief of all Ojibwe in Minnesota, according to Stone, but was killed in his early 40s.
“Afterwards, you had nonnative Indian agents kind of running the lives of native people, and they pulled most of the natives out of the Brainerd lakes area and sent them off to White Earth, so it really changed the history of the area,” Treuer said.
Treuer focuses on Hole-in-the-Day the Younger’s interactions with other tribes, the role of Ojibwe culture and tradition, and interviews with more than 50 elders to further explain the events leading up to his death, according to an Amazon.com description of his book.
“Treuer explores the life and death of this brash young leader, and delves into tribal history and the intricate machinations of Ojibwa politics,” according to Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.
Treuer said, “At one point, Hole-in-the-Day, when he was negotiating the treaty for removal of Ojibwe from Central Minnesota to White Earth, had a tryst with a white woman in Washington, D.C. who followed him home and moved in with him and his five Ojibwe wives.”
Treuer is the author of almost 20 books and has acted as a historical expert for documentaries, but the attempt to turn “The Assassination of Hole in the Day” into a movie would be his foray into Hollywood.
“We’ve created a business entity called Debwe Films and look for money to do phase one, which is developing a screenplay based upon the book that I wrote,” Treuer said.
Oscar-winning producer and screenplay writer Dave Franzoni was hired to write the adaptation of Treuer’s book. Franzoni was the screenplay writer for the movies “Gladiator,” starring Russell Crowe, and “Amistad,” starring an ensemble cast that was directed by Steven Spielberg.
“And the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe funded that phase of the development, and it’s actually been a couple of years to get that far. … We will use Franzoni’s draft in order to try and get funding for the actual movie production — paying a director, actor — that kind of thing,” Treuer said.
Treuer said the goal is to make a major motion picture with a budget of around $60 million with a high-level investor interested in the project.
“We’ve had some preliminary interest from some high-profile folks, but it’s just too early to say who that is or what their level of engagement might be,” Treuer said.
The goal is to film the feature film adaption in the Brainerd lakes area, including sections of the Crow Wing State Park around the Fort Ripley where Hole-in-the-Day the Younger lived and operated.
“We kind of want to do stuff like that where we’ve got indigenous acting talent, indigenous extras, it’s culturally accurate — not just natives as a background for nonnative story,” Treuer said.
Hole-in-the-Day the Younger’s killers revealed they had in fact been hired by a group of white and mixed-blood traders, according to Stone, and the traders were fearful the Ojibwe chief would exclude them from White Earth and they would lose their businesses.
“Hole-in-the-Day was a complex figure,” Treuer said. “One of the things that I really hope we capture in a movie is the sense of indigenous agency, that native people are not passive players in their own history. We are more than the sum of our tragedies.”